This Is America

A still from the video "This Is America" showing Don Glover/Childish Gambino pointing the gun at a man sitting on a chair, wearing a hood over his head

Three speech bubbles in different colours (red, black and blue) surround a larger speech bubble which has a blue to red colour gradient, underneath the speech bubbles it says 'Amplifying Voices'It has been a bit more than a week since the American rapper (and all-around talent) Childish Gambino, also known as Donald Glover, released his new song “This Is America”. It’s not just the song that is worth mentioning here but especially the music video. Since its release the video has been difficult to avoid and it has been analysed and discussed all over the internet. So far, the video has accumulated more than 100 million views.
I would strongly recommend watching the music video before reading on or looking elsewhere.

Please be advised that there is some graphic violence.

In order to acknowledge every point Gambino makes, it would be necessary to watch the video several times.
Several things stand out immediately:

  • The shooting of innocent people without giving it another thought
  • The handling of the guns
  • The stark contrast between the happy dancing and the actual goings-on in the video
  • The amount of clutter in the foreground that distracts from the violence in the background

According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been more than 21,000 incidents with guns in the US since the beginning of 2018, which have led to more than 5000 deaths. “Small” shootings have become such a common occurrence in the US that they hardly even make the news. Nonetheless, every time a “larger” shooting occurs the debate whether or not to ban, or even slightly limit the access to, guns, resurfaces. It appears that the right to bear arms is more important than the right not to be shot.
In his video, Gambino highlights this exact discrepancy by handling guns with great care after casually using them to take innocent lives. The guns are taken away carefully, covered in a red cloth.

A gun being placed into a red cloth

This particular shooting of the gospel choir reminds of the shooting in Charleston in 2015, where a white supremacist shot and killed nine black people in a church. Whereas in reality, this was a racist act of terror committed by a white man, the only person in the music video using guns is Gambino himself, a black man.

Next to gun violence, the other major topic that is addressed in the video is how racism still remains engrained in society. The creative director of the video, Ibra Ake, explains that a goal of the video ‘is to normalize blackness’. A black person in the US today is always black first and a person second. The dancing in the foreground can be enjoyed by all, but this only distracts from what is going on in the background, where police are shooting innocent people of color and getting away with it.

While Donald Glover didn’t really bring anything new to the table with ‘This Is America’, he certainly grabbed everyone’s attention and helped people discuss these issues again. Let us hope he will be heard.